Author Topic: "Perma-death"  (Read 4516 times)

Offline x4000

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2011, 10:48:22 AM »
Whoo, there's a lot of text and opinions here.  A lot of good thoughts.  And also, thanks for the recommendation to DF adventure mode, superking.  I'll have to at least read up on that some, although I don't want to just do what they've done -- specifically, their game is a hardcore simulation game, and is thus starting from an utterly alien premise as far as AVWW is concerned.

I think it's fair to say that the perma-death mechanic in AVWW is currently something that has only minor penalties, but as the world gets more complex, the penalties also get more complex by necessity.  But before that freaks anyone (Bob) out, I think it's important that I back up for a minute and explain the overall design goals I have. 

I'm always talking about my immutable design goals, right?  So here they are for perma-death:

1. When a character is dead, the character is dead for good.

1.a. It is possible that in some VERY rare cases we might have some sort of life-saving elixer or something, but that sort of thing would be "the super rare exception to the rule that is used for dramatic effect to underscore the rule itself."  99.9% of the time, when a character dies they are gone.

2. When a character dies, the player should feel the loss in some manner.  It shouldn't be like losing a life in Mario where it's just utterly unmemorable.
2.a. How exactly this is accomplished will be determined most by things that we have not put in the game yet -- deeds, hopes, and more robust NPC stuff in general.  In a sense even your player-character is still an NPC, so they still have hopes and a past that has nothing to do with you-the-player.  When you take over an NPC to play with, it's not like their past just gets wiped or something.
2.b. I also figure that even if the player doesn't care about that NPC, it's important that the world does.  Thus even if the player "didn't know the character very well yet" and thus hadn't built up a depth of feeling for them, the world should be affected in subtle ways that matter.  When I read the obituary column, as one example, I feel the gravitas of all that loss even if it doesn't really emotionally affect me directly because I didn't know any of the people.  This is the minimum of what I'd like to recreate here, if possible.

3. When a character dies, the player must not be punished in a significant gameplay sense.  In other words, there should be no incentive to try to "save scum" after death for most players.
3.a. Temporary lack of access to inventory that the prior character had been carrying, as well as being jettisoned to a new area, is the only punishment in a gameplay sense that we currently have.
3.b. Going along with this immutable goal, having the players have to choose from a limited selection of NPCs that they might prefer to keep alive in their settlements could be a big punishment, hence my recent thinking on the wanderers.
3.c. Later, as NPCs are more robust and have other functions in settlements and otherwise, this is where the "penalties get more complex."  When someone leaves the world, that does leave an awful hole, as they say.  The goal here is to make that hole reflected in the world and story in a poignant way, without making the player feel like they are being punished.  Mostly that involves making the players not replay stuff they already did; not "lose work" that they'd had in progress; and not significantly reduce the number of options available to the player at that point in the game.

Whew, that's a lot of qualifiers for those design goals, but hopefully that makes sense.  Everything else about perma-death springs up from those and only those.  Right now, mechanically, it's going what I want for #1 and #3.  Item #2 is the more subtle and tricky one, and really involves a lot of world-lore logic and the deeds system, neither of which are likely to be in place for another month at least.
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Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2011, 01:05:59 AM »
:)

Thank you for the nice and well thought out post. It is interesting to read, and gives me some idea of what to expect. I think the Beta, when it gets here is going to be very, very interesting indeed!  :)

-Teal


Offline Martyn van Buren

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #17 on: April 03, 2011, 06:27:59 AM »
Thanks for the response, Chris!

Since people bring up the possibility of attacks on settlements, I'd like to argue some for there being some danger to NPCs, at least at times.  Personally, I've found that some of the most effective emotional moments I've seen in games have been when familiar NPCs die, especially, in fact, when it's because you fucked up rather than because it's part of the plot.  I'm thinking of the NPC soldiers who accompany you in Halo 2, as a matter of fact ---- they aren't really characters, and most of the time you just blow though levels while they get picked off.  But I tried once to get through a level with them alive, and it quickly became really important to me.  It's difficult to keep them alive, especially since they tend to advance into dangerous areas when you want to stay back and snipe, and even more because they never, ever retreat; it forced me to take risks I would have preferred not to take.  In the end, only one of them made it, but my anxiety when the aliens shot at her and my relief when I beat the last boss in the level and she was still standing are my strongest memories from playing that game.  I think it was a lot more effective than scripted deaths, like that of the psychic girl in FFVII and the point in Mass Effect I where you have to choose a member of your team to sacrifice, precisely because I had to take ownership, as it were, of the characters' fates; if they died, it wasn't because the developers had written into the story, but because I planned my battles wrong and got them killed.  Although, if you know the game, I think Mass Effect recognized this effect, and did a very good job of making it seem like you could have saved one of the characters if you'd moved faster or tried harder.

Anyway, I think the lesson of this is that even a totally undeveloped, cardboard-cutout NPC can suddenly start to seem really important if you're made responsible for them in a way that means you can save them or lose them, and even more if the game forces you to make difficult choices.  So I think being asked to protect NPCs in a way that you can genuinely screw up can potentially provide a good deal of emotional depth.

Offline x4000

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2011, 09:49:37 AM »
My pleasure on the response!

So I think being asked to protect NPCs in a way that you can genuinely screw up can potentially provide a good deal of emotional depth.

I very much see your point, and in a lot of senses I agree.  But, one has to ask "what kind of game is this?" primarily.  This game is more like Zelda, or Crystalis, or some similar game of that sort, in that most of it is lone adventuring where you go out and the people that you know (NPCs) all stay safely bundled off somewhere.  Granted, there's co-op, so you can be off "alone together," but that's still fine.

Now, that makes it sound like I don't want to have NPCs ever be in danger, which is not what I mean at all.  Rather, the focus for 1.0 is just mainly not relating to NPCs being in danger or not.  Having NPCs be in danger involves one of two things: either they are accompanying you on missions (which I really don't want to do, as it's counter to the above "lone adventurer" feel that we're going for, not to mention it takes a bunch of extra AI coding that I don't care to get into for this game -- there's enough to do already); or there are some sort of semi-random or triggered events where they are threatened in settlements or whatever else.  That's something Keith and I have talked about quite a bit, actually, but we decided that would probably be best as part of an expansion, possibly as the centerpiece of an expansion, sometime post-1.0.

Why is that one such a big deal?  Well, for one thing, balancing it is extremely tricky.  If your NPCs are suddenly vulnerable at times, that changes how you need to be able to set up settlements.  And that in turn causes a cascade of other gameplay events you need to have in place for it to work.  It's very much taking the game in a huge, branching new direction with a ton of implications, which is why we think that sounds like an interesting expansion rather than one more thing to try to cram into 1.0.

Maybe it's gauche to be planning an expansion before 1.0 is even done, but we have ideas that plainly don't fit into 1.0, and so we either have to throw them out or plan to do something with them.  Granted, if we were to see, say, a Minecraft level of success to the base game, then we'd be leaning even more heavily on free DLC instead of expansions. ;)  But as it stands at the moment, we have to do a certain amount of work and then get paid for it in order to stay in business.  And so when there's a big nest of related un-anticipated functionality like this, we tend to earmark that for expansions rather than 1.0 or free DLC, for the simple reason it would take us a month or more to implement this satisfactorily, most likely (and longer in public testing).

Anyway, that's not to say that if some simpler ideas didn't come up, that we might not go with them.  Keith and I have also talked about overworld caravans for populating new settlements, but we discarded that a while ago as being too complex for such a core mechanic of the game.  But we might have some other purpose that we could use caravans for, which could involve NPC-defense when the caravan gets caught in windstorm events, for instance.  I dunno.  When it comes to stuff like that, it depends on how much time we wind up with later in alpha/beta.
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Offline Martyn van Buren

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #19 on: April 08, 2011, 07:14:18 AM »
That makes great sense to me.  I have a lot of faith in Arcen expansions, as well.

Offline Echo35

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2011, 10:53:43 AM »
Hey, after playing Nethack and Steel Battalion, I'm used to not only losing my character for good, but my save files as well, so this can't be THAT bad :P

Offline x4000

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2011, 11:20:57 AM »
Hahaha, no, nowhere like that! :)
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Offline Awod

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #22 on: April 11, 2011, 08:41:13 PM »
Hey, after playing Nethack and Steel Battalion, I'm used to not only losing my character for good, but my save files as well, so this can't be THAT bad :P

I hear ya, big fan of Diablo II, hardcore. (perma-death)

This game sounds like fun, can't wait.

Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2011, 02:00:30 AM »
I don't want to seem a downer with the perma-death stuff, i just hope we don't have to lose our characters 'too' much. I mean, it would be nice to build up a sense of history, maybe several weeks, before losing them? I'm afraid if i lose them like on the hour, then it will get to the point, where it's not a big deal and just run around doing whatever until they die and then go on.

That is really 'not' the kind of game i was hoping for, the die every hour kind. I don't want to tell you how to do it, but perhaps when we get to beta we can 'tweak' the death thing, so it is kind of well... balanced. AI War is different, a ship doesn't really 'hold' as much of a player's 'self' as an on screen 'character' does.

I just want to spend some time getting used to and enjoying my characters before i have to lose them.
Anyway, just my opinion.
Thank you for listening,

-Teal


Offline eRe4s3r

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #24 on: April 12, 2011, 02:14:41 AM »
I think this is even more important than that - players often don't play "a character" but "their character" which as you say, is how they "connect" to their avatar. Having perma-death close in each encounter makes people explore less and take less risks or (the inverse) lose connection to their avatar and take many pointless risks (because while permanent with no connection to a character players have little incentive to care).

« Last Edit: April 12, 2011, 04:13:45 AM by eRe4s3r »
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Offline x4000

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #25 on: April 12, 2011, 09:08:49 AM »
It depends on how you play as to how dangerous it is. I'd you play 10 levels up, you probably will die at least every hour. If you play closer to your level and equip yourself with at least some healing potions, etc, you ought to be able to string one character out for quite a while. It all depends on your choices, mainly how aggressive you are. You don't have to be a passive bunny to keep your character alive a long time, though.
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Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #26 on: April 12, 2011, 01:59:38 PM »
:) I am glad to hear that.

 I suppose I will just have to wait and see how the game plays when the beta comes out.  :)

Thank you for the explanation,

-Teal

« Last Edit: April 12, 2011, 02:01:52 PM by Teal_Blue »

Offline x4000

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Re: "Perma-death"
« Reply #27 on: April 12, 2011, 02:33:30 PM »
Yep, things like that are pretty impossible to balance until more of the components are in place.  All of that sort of polish really gets focused on closer to beta and then ongoing afterward.
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